Mental Rehearsals versus Actual Rehearsals

by Site Author

In my last post, I argued that practicing out loud is a crucial ingredient in preparing a presentation. I ought to have mentioned that the key issue is that you practice. It doesn’t necessarily have to be out loud.

There’s now a great deal of research suggesting that even practicing in your head can help. Surgeons improve their performance during real operations when they practice using “mental imagery.” One good meta-study on mental practice finds it to be effective in many different contexts.

Many people already do this intuitively. They read through their lecture notes or they quietly review their slides. From the outside, it looks as though they are idly reviewing their content. But internally, they are mentally rehearsing, imagining how they will present. The research suggests that this is a useful way to prepare.

And this makes it very easy to practice even when you are very busy. You transfer your slide deck to your smartphone, and then you rehearse while on the train, in the bathroom, or even (very carefully) while driving.